Australian golfer Jason Day claimed his first PGA Tour victory for more than five years at the AT&T Byron Nelson in Texas, paying tribute to his late mother after the win.
A former world No. 1, Day has endured a challenging period in his career since he was last in the winner’s circle. Amid his struggle for form, he has battled a back injury and bouts of vertigo, even to the point where he considered walking away from golf.
His victory on Sunday was all the more poignant as it fell on Mother’s Day; to honor the occasion, Day chose to have the birth name of his mother, who died from cancer last year, on the back of his caddy’s bib.
“I was in tears for a little bit there, to think about what my mom went through from 2017 on to her passing last year,” the 35-year-old told reporters after the victory.
“It was very emotional to go through and to experience what she was going through, then I had injuries on top of all of that going on in my life. To be honest, I was very close to calling it quits. I never told my wife that, but I was okay with it, just because it was a very stressful part of my life.”
On Sunday, Day carded a bogey-free, nine-under par in his final round to finish on 23-under, one shot ahead of South Korea’s Kim Si-woo and American Austin Eckroat. It was his 13th victory on the PGA Tour, earning him $1.71 million.
“It feels strange to be sitting here, I don’t know how else to explain it,” said Day.
“To go through what I went through and then to be able to be a winner again and be in the winner’s circle is very pleasing, and I know that there’s been a lot of very hard work behind the scenes that a lot of people haven’t seen.”
Starting the tournament with a seven-under 64, Day shot 69 and 66 in the next two rounds before climbing up the leaderboard with a strong showing on Sunday at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney.
That included three straight birdies on the front nine and a brilliant chip from the edge of the green on the 12th to move into the lead, which he shared briefly with world No. 2 Scottie Scheffler.
Scheffler, Kim, Eckroat, and Taiwan’s C.T. Pan all kept the pressure on Day as rain started to fall in the closing stages, but a birdie at the 18th, where his wife and four kids were watching on, proved enough to wrap up his second AT&T Byron Nelson victory.
“For some reason, I just thought that I was going to win the tournament,” said Day, who claimed his first Tour win in the same event 13 years ago. “It’s easy to say that now because I won it, but for some reason, I just had this sort of calmness about it.”
Day admitted that his thought process for the last couple of years had been to fulfill the minimum requirements of his contract on Tour, such was the extent of the challenges he was facing on and off the golf course.
“It’s not a healthy way of playing golf in general, not a healthy way of just living in general,” he said.
But the Australian has now returned to the top 20 of the world rankings once more, recapturing some of the form that saw him claim his first and only major triumph at the PGA Championship in 2015.
And with the second major of the year getting underway on Thursday at this year’s edition of the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, New York, the victory seems timely.
“There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done with the swing, to the point where I want to take it,” Day said.
“I know that the game is good enough to win, but it would be nice to be able to build a game to have it be more of a dominant game to be able to win multiple times a year, not just once.”